I was asked by a French colleague, and had no clear answer, whether it's more correct to say "One thousand five hundred" or "fifteen hundred" when speaking the number 1500. Putting aside how we say dates, which have their own formula.

After some thought, my best answer was I tended to say "fifteen hundred" when dealing with abstract things ("fifteen hundred dollars") that I tend to think of as a unit (when I think of $1500, I think of that sum, not of 1500 individual dollar bills), but "one thousand five hundred" when dealing with countable objects, like "there are one thousand five hundred marbles in the box."

I was wondering if there was a standard or guidance documents, possibly for broadcast, that would provide some sort of structured answer to the question.

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    Did you ask your French colleague if there was a standard French way of saying it? – Barrie England Dec 17 '13 at 19:56
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    If you want 'the unequivocal answer' here, I fear you're bound to be disappointed. Even style guides tend to disagree over what's best practice. I'd not think that 'fifteen hundred armed men at Zapatan' sounded odd, but usage is idiosyncratic. Check on the web for individual examples of your own choice (you can't check using numerals, of course). – Edwin Ashworth Dec 17 '13 at 19:57
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    This might help english.stackexchange.com/questions/7953/… – Josh Dec 17 '13 at 20:00
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    Which one sounds easier to say? 6 syllables of /wənθawzəndfayvhəndrəd/ or 4 syllables of /fɪftinhəndrəd/? – John Lawler Dec 17 '13 at 20:56
  • you could always say three hundred score. – hildred Dec 18 '13 at 0:52

One thousand five hundred is more formal than fifteen hundred. Both will be understood by the listener and are correct English, but one thousand five hundred would be more appropriate on a legal document such as a contract.

Also, in an informal setting, such as when talking about sports statistics, people may look at you funny if you use one thousand five hundred rather than fifteen hundred.

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    Exactly. One example of a legal document where you should use "one thousand five hundred" is a check (or "cheque"). – Kaz Dec 17 '13 at 21:26
  • This is the best answer so far. One is more formal and the other is informal, colloquial. – Tristan r Dec 17 '13 at 22:27
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    Yes, but that means nothing without some description of what "formal" means and how it works with this word. Many people think using whom is a mark of formality, and therefore use it whenever they wish to show formality, like "I don't know whom you think you are." – John Lawler Dec 18 '13 at 0:42

Quinze cents is more common in French than mille cinq cents.

I tried COPA, but could not get a search done as to usage. I think/wonder if our use of one thousand five hundred relates to how it is usually written: 1,500 vs 1500. Perhaps because of my science background, I think in 'hundreds'. But I hear *one thousand five hundred* more commonly when referring to something other than money, even though banks prefer one thousand five hundred on a check.

Googling, I turned up three times as many hits for one thousand five hundred than fifteen hundred.

Nothing unequivocal, I'm afraid.

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    I don't believe any bank would refuse to cash a check because it said fifteen hundred rather than one thousand five hundred. But checks you get from banks and businesses will probably read one thousand five hundred. – Peter Shor Apr 2 '14 at 14:34

Whether numbers should be described as "hundreds" or "thousands" depends upon whether the things being described are naturally grouped into chunks of size 25, 50, or some number which is a multiple of 100 but not 1,000. Street addresses in the US are generally numbered to increase by 100 per block, so 5295 Easy Street would be "fifty-two ninety-five" since it is approximately fifty-two blocks away from the place where numbering starts. In a country where addresses are assigned consecutively without regard for block boundaries, it may be better to read the 1,234th assigned address on a street as "one thousand two hundred thirty-four". In contexts where things like prices are expected to be in the range 100 to 9,900 and expressed as multiples of 100, saying "fifty-two hundred" will be more concise than "five thousand two hundred". If only a few prices were below 10,000 it would be better to consistently describe prices--even smaller ones--in the more verbose form, but if most prices can be expressed concisely such usage is generally helpful.


The following quote from answers.yahoo.com by benni is what I think the best answer, though I'm sure some people would disagree:

15 hundred is a shortcut we use, but it isn't really correct. you should write out the full number. The reason it is wrong is because there is only one digit assigned to hundreds. The digit all the way to the right in an integer is called the ones digit, the next one to the left is the tens digit, the third one is the hundreds digit, and the the next THREE are thousands digits, then the next three are the millions digits, etc. So 15000 can be said 15 thousand just fine because the 1 and the 5 are both in the thousands. But 1500 technically isnt 15 hundred because there is only one hundreds digit and that is the 5. The 1 is in the thousands.

  • Please add the link and fix the formatting :) – Honza Zidek Jul 25 '14 at 9:43

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